Mission Delhi – Suhail Ahmad, Sirkewalan
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It was all settled. Suhail Ahmad, 30, would be a lecturer in medieval Indian history. Naturally he would also end up as a scholar in Persian literature. After all, it was the court lingo in the India of that era, he explains.
Events proceeded smoothly. In 2017, Mr Ahmad finished his master’s in history from Jamia Millia Islamia University, becaming the only one to accomplish such a feat at his Chatta Abdul Hakim neighbourhood in Old Delhi. In 2019, he earned a diploma in Persian language from Delhi University. (He would often walk the Walled City lanes reciting Ghalib’s verses by heart.)
Meanwhile, he had grown financially independent as a “tourist facilitator” and a “story teller” for a travel company, escorting foreign visitors to Delhi monuments.
And then arrived 2020. Coronavirus flew in. Tourists flew out. Mr Ahmad lost his job. His hard earned savings quickly depleted. “Some parts of my earnings went to our household, for I live with my parents and siblings, and the rest were exhausted in helping people during the lockdown.” He felt he had to urgently find a new job. Which meant he gave up his dream of doing a Ph. D. Today Mr Ahmad works as an apprentice in Vishal Hardware Store in the market in Sirkewalan, a short walk from his home. In fact, this evening he is standing outside the same shop. “I never imagined that I, who used to read ghazals and nazams, would one day deal with kundi, taala and chatkhani… Covid has made me start from the start.”
Mr Ahmad admits that he could still
pursue higher studies “but honestly now I don’t have time.” He pauses. “Ultimately I want to set up my own hardware shop.” Next moment, he remarks on the irony of kismet (fate). “It can take you from somewhere to nowhere.”
But traces of Mr Ahmad’s pre-pandemic past remains in him. Such as his passion for Persian poetry. Sometimes at night, while lying on the bed, the last thing he does is to turn on his phone screen and read poems by Ghalib and Iqbal. “My life has changed but poetry is still in my heart,” he says, grinning, as he poses for a portrait in the hardware store, standing with folded arms beside a display of “kundi, taala and chatkhani.”
Ps: Mr Ahmad clarifies that there is one more person in his neighbourhood to have done a master’s—his younger sister, Yusra.
[This is the 466th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
His altering life